Archive for June, 2014

Always keep moving forward.

Thursday, June 26th, 2014

At our conference this week we heard case studies of two connected partnerships which truly use TV to its full advantage.


Both Iceland’s sponsorship of I’m a celebrity and WKD’s association with TOWIE make the most of ITV and every kind of second screen.


They also both had a massive impact on the trade relationships and employees.


Normally we consider a sponsorship’s impact primarily on the target consumer for the brand.  But Nick Canning of Iceland pointed out the enormous benefit that the association with I’m a Celebrity has on staff morale (what could be better than a visit from Peter Andre) and at sales conferences.  A Bush Tucker trial for management at the conference can’t be beaten.


The theme of the day, at South Bank Studios overlooking the River Thames, was about Connections.  Media doesn’t work in silos, business doesn’t work in silos, life doesn’t work in silos.  We heard a number of speakers talk about the importance of connections professionally and personally.  And although the theme of the conference was about building better connections, working the whole system and not just each silo, a lot of the speakers talked about bravery, about authenticity and about growth.  As Nick Canning said “I believe you should never accept what you’ve got, always keep moving forward.”


The most emotional moment of the morning (apart from watching Joey Essex watch himself walk on water), was hearing from Simon Daglish and Jaco Van Gass about walking to the North Pole.  Simon’s charity Walking with the Wounded has not only raised money in a super connected way, but has also changed attitudes to the wounded.  Jaco, one of the heroes from the show, said “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you deal with it”.  Given how much Jaco has had to deal with from recovering from severe wounds to walking to the North Pole and climbing Everest, this was extremely motivating.  He said “You have to take steps, so I thought, first learn to walk again, then get rid of the colostomy bag, then walk to the North Pole”.  Wow.


We all need to take steps forward, and never be satisfied with the status quo.


We must pray that God is on England’s side because the ref won’t be.

Thursday, June 19th, 2014

The ex-chief rabbi Jonathan Sacks tells a story that when he was appointed he discovered that he shared a love of Arsenal with the Archbishop of Canterbury. They decided to have their first official meeting in the box at the next game.  Where Arsenal lost, and lost badly.  The papers picked up on the story, saying that this was surely proof that God did not exist if both such eminent religious leaders went to the game but Arsenal still didn’t win.  Sacks replied by saying that on the contrary, it was surely proof that God was a Man U fan.


It is to be hoped that She is also an England fan.  And that media men and women find time to pray for England’s chances this week.  (Those not busy quaffing rose in Cannes that is).  For certainly England can expect no favour from any referee.  Tobias Moskowitz and Jon Wertheim in their book Scorecasting, look at common behavioural biases that effect the outcome of sports games.


A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that they’d discovered that the loyalty of fans could dis-incentivise management from investing in improving performance.  They also demolish the myth of the Home Team advantage on players, but prove statistically that it is the ref that is affected, and often during games where the Home Team is at a slight disadvantage.  Brazil’s awarded penalty in their opening game – what most are calling a lucky decision – seems exactly an example of ref bias.


“We’ve found is that officials are biased, confirming years of fans’ conspiracy theories.  But they’re biased not against louts screaming unprintable epithets at them.  They’re biased for them, and the bigger the crowd, the worse the bias.  In fact, officials’ bias is the most significant contributor to home field advantage.”


Their evidence is based on analysis of 750 La Liga games studied by academics and reviewing over 15,000 games in the English Premier League, Serie A, Bundesliga and the Scottish League.  The bias only happens in games that are close, not where the Home Team is significantly ahead or behind, just like Brazil v Croatia, a “soft penalty” awarded at one all.


When the crowd shout at the players they don’t affect the outcome.  When they yell at the ref, that’s another matter.





Inspired by your team

Thursday, June 12th, 2014

This week saw the anniversary of the D Day landings.  The invasion of Normandy that changed the course of the Second World War.


Coverage in The Guardian said  “Seventy Normandy summers ago, as the ships and planes and gliders disgorged 156,000 on to beaches and into the smoke, flames and barrage of mortar fire, victory was uncertain. So was survival. No-one escaped unscathed.”


This anniversary is said to be the last when survivors could return in large numbers.


It was a moment of real courage and bravery for thousands of soldiers. On a day of immense danger for all, there was still one who stood out.  One soldier, the only soldier at D Day, who was awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest award in the military.


Stan Hollis was a 31-year-old sergeant major with the Green Howards when he took part in the assault on Gold Beach.


As his company moved inland, he captured several gun positions and rescued two colleagues, taking more than two dozen prisoners in the process and clearing a path for his colleagues.


Brigadier John Powell said: “Stan continued along a communication trench, and by that stage the Germans had had enough, probably it was the terrifying sight of seeing Stan charging towards them.


“In all there were about 30 prisoners.


“Now this action was immensely successful, not only did he save the lives of many in his company but by his actions he allowed this route up to the beach to be cleared.


“That was important for the success of D-Day.”


His reputation  and feats live on in Normandy.  In fact it’s said that he’s more famous in Normandy than in his home town of Middlesborough.


He was by all accounts an unassuming man, as many true heroes are.


He rarely spoke about what he had done.  In one interview however he typically downplayed his bravery saying and talked about his team of men: “All these fellows were my mates… I had lived with them.  Apart from the fact of being in the Army I had lived with them in civvy street before.  We knew, well, everybody knew everybody else, and there wasn’t only me doing these things there were other people who were doing them as well and the things I did.  If I hadn’t done them somebody else would have done them.  There is no doubt about it. It was just a case of not who would do it, it was just when it was done, and it would have been done by somebody else.”


He summed up the event by saying that though people called him an inspiration he was in fact inspired by his men.


Although nothing in our business compares with Hollis’s actions, this last comment resonates.  There is never a training event that I’m involved in when the trainees are not immensely inspiring.  The reward for judging a competition at work, whether it’s a mini pitch (our Real World Pitching annual training scheme is one of these) or presentation skills, or role reversals and the rest, is the inspiration you get from the participants.


People sometimes comment or complain about inspirational leaders or the lack.  Your team around you are reliably, genuinely and uniquely inspirational.


Can too much loyalty be bad for you?

Thursday, June 5th, 2014

Too much loyalty can be a double edged sword.  Whether you’re a pop icon, a business leader, a sports team or a brand.


My favourite pop star is famous for his uncompromising live gigs where he reinterprets his old classics so that they’re unrecognisable to casual fans, refuses to interact with the audience for 90% of the concert and often won’t do an encore.  I and his other loyal fans love him for it.  The more uncompromising the better.  He can do no wrong.  He’s unlikely to top the charts though at this rate.  (He’s an artist, not a business, so in this case it’s all for the best, (unless you only know his best of album and turn up at a festival this summer expecting him to play a greatest hit.))


I’ve worked with business leaders who value loyalty over challenge and unconditional agreement over development.  I don’t work there any more, (I tend not to be their type) but read Scoop for one of the best examples in literature of this with the character Lord Copper, a newspaper magnate so fearsome that his obsequious foreign editor, Mr Salter, can never openly disagree with any statement he makes answering: “Up to a point, Lord Copper” in place of “no”.  (You might find this useful yourself at times).  Business leaders like this can build empires but don’t create the most satisfactory places to work or indeed to develop.


Too much loyalty can be a double edged sword in sport too.  In “Scorecasting, the hidden influences behind how sports are played and games are won”, authors Moskowitz and Wertheim, tell the story of their home baseball team the Chicago Cubs.  Their performance is so bad and so notorious that it is commonly attributed to a longterm curse.  The last time they won the World Series was in 1908, and their ongoing performance was summed up by their play-by-play announcer Jack Brickhouse in 7 words : “Everyone is entitled to a bad century”. Moskowitz and Wertheim set out to look for the facts, statistically are Cubs fans right to think that their team is particularly unlucky?


The answer, unsurprisingly, is no.  “The Cubs ritual underperformance in terms of wins is perfectly understandable when you examine their performance on the field.”  But if it isn’t bad luck, is there another underlying reason?


The authors think there is.  That it is in fact due to the loyalty of their fans.  They examined home game attendance versus performance for every team in the league.  The Cubs attendance is the least sensitive in baseball to performance.  Therefore financially the club has less incentive to perform than its rivals.  They have lots of loyal fans, used to losing, happy to have a great day out.  Some argue that the team has a “perverse incentive to maintain their image as a ‘loveable loser'”.  A popular fan t-shirt reads “Cubs baseball: shut up and drink your beer”.


In fact beer prices have a bigger effect on attendance than team performance.  Cubs fans will tolerate bad performance and high ticket prices, but draw the line at expensive beer.  This “makes for a fun day at the ballpark, but doesn’t give the ownership much incentive to reverse the culture of losing”.


Interesting isn’t it?  We can all think of football teams whose loyal longterm supporters in some way relish the constant disappointment of a typical season of ups and downs in stark contrast with the impatience of say a Chelsea fan (or owner) with a manager who doesn’t perform consistently and immediately.


Back to brands.  Too much loyalty can be a signifier that the brand is static, hasn’t grown, isn’t changing or updating itself sufficiently to attract the promiscuous consumer, or top up its younger base.


In the longterm a business culture needs an element of restlessness and dissatisfaction to keep growing.  If that means upsetting some loyalists it may be a necessary price to pay.